It’s winter water averaging time in Havasu, so adjust your irrigation
By Gail Key
Special to Today’s News-Herald
It’s time to change your irrigation schedule.
Plants, trees, and shrubs need less frequent watering in our cooler months. The intentional reduction also helps decrease your overall water consumption during Lake Havasu City’s annual winter water use averaging period.
The winter water use averaging period is used to determine your sewer base rate for the rest of the year. Winter water averaging typically begins in mid-November and lasts for the next four months, with the highest water usage month being dropped. Water usage for the remaining three months is then averaged. To qualify for the basic sewer rate of $41, you are allowed up to 562 cu. ft. (4,204 gallons) per month.
With correct watering techniques in the landscape, and watching household use of water for these four months, I haven’t exceeded the base rate since this program started. Nor have I sacrificed my plants or personal cleanliness. By understanding the proper irrigation method for our common desert trees and plants, you too can limit your water use during the winter months.
Think of the branches of trees as outstretched arms, with the roots mirrored below the ground going not only down, but also growing outward from the trunk. Following this analogy, trees pick up most of their water from the portion of the roots between the “elbow” of the branches and their “fingertips.” This area is known as the drip line, or where rain would drip from leaves. For that reason, it is best that the watering source be moved away from the trunk, and placed closer to the drip line as the tree grows. Creating a shallow well or furrow that extends from the trunk to the dripline of the tree ensures that any water given will saturate the correct area.
The length of time you water depends on soil composition and irrigation method. It should be slow and long for a deep watering. Trees should be watered to a depth of three to five feet. Checked this with a soil probe. Make note of how long it takes to reach that depth. When changing your watering schedule for winter, you will continue to provide the same amount of water each time you irrigate, but you won’t irrigate as often.
I have seven trees in my landscape – two mulga acacias, two desert willows, a leatherman acacia, an olive and one chaste tree. All are over two years old. They are watered a couple of days before the start of the averaging, and then receive no water turned for the rest of winter. Two months into the averaging, if we have not have much winter rain, I will check to see how much water was used that month. If it is under the 562 cu. ft., I water again, then water once more immediately after the averaging is over.
Native trees such as mesquite and palo verd, and the non-native varieties noted above (when over a year old), can be watered about once a month in winter, depending on rain we receive.
If we have unusually hot or windy winter months, more frequent water may be needed.
The same applies to saguaros and other native cacti, but non-native cacti might require a bit more water in winter. Water palm trees about every six weeks in winter, again depending on the winter rains. Citrus should be watered every 7- 10 days in winter following the above guide lines for watering out to the drip line at a depth of three to five feet.
My agaves and desert plants get no water in winter. Water plants such as Texas and Russian sage, Baja fairy dusters, emu bushes, feathery and silver leaf cassias and red yucca every two weeks or so in winter to a depth of two to three feet. Potted plants might require a bit more frequent water since their roots cannot stretch out and seek water like non-potted plants.
Inspect watering systems for leaks at least twice a year. Make sure no water is running in the house and go out and look at the water meter. If you are sure that no water is running and the meter is turning, you probably have a leak somewhere. Looking for them is always a challenge. Turn on watering stations one at a time and look for geysers or wet spots where they should not be. With regular maintenance and proper irrigation scheduling, you can enjoy a beautiful landscape without wasting water or breaking the bank.
Gail Key is a Lake Havasu City Emeritus Master Gardener. For details, call the Lake Havasu Master Gardener hotline at 928-753-3788, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or come to Home Garden Day at the Library the first Tuesday of the month from 11am-1pm.